Lighting Up the Yard

Last summer we picked up several strands of cafe lights on our trip to Portland with the plans to put them up in the back yard around the fire pit, but we got busy with other projects and didn’t get them up.  Luckily, we’re playing catch up this summer and crossing off all the projects from last year that didn’t get finished.  Which means we had most of the materials already on hand to get this one done.

It started with creating the posts the lights would hang from.  We used two small metal stock tanks we got from Wilco on our big trip last summer as the base.  We added two bags of sand from the sand bags we use in the bed of the truck for weight during the winter to create a base at the bottom of the tank and provide a bit of drainage.

From there we used concrete footer blocks that had a metal attachment for a pole.  We picked those up on the buy/sell page last summer as well.  We decided to use pressure treated 4×4’s to coordinate with the fence around the yard.  Since the ground slopes away from the house for drainage we knew the tanks wouldn’t sit perfectly level, so we leveled the posts with a handy tool the Hubs had and used long deck screws to secure them in place.

Then the Hubs added a couple of supports around the posts using scrap wood.  These help prevent any sway during the wind or pull from the tension on the light strands.  He kept them a little low in the tank so I’d still have room to plant around the posts.

I spent weeks filling both tanks with plastic bottles and jugs to reduce the amount of dirt needed to fill them.  Luckily I know a coffee shop that was willing to save their large milk jugs each day to speed up the process a bit!  Once I had them topped off with dirt I planted cosmos and dill, which should fill in and grow tall next to the pole for the rest of the summer.  Next year I may try cat mint to see if it survives the winter in the metal tank since both cats enjoy this new vantage point and can often be found sitting in the tanks next to the flowers.

The Hubs strung the lights using small hooks at the top of the posts and securing the ends of the cords to the house with a bracket and zip tie.  The nearest electrical outlet is over on the new deck so he got a tan colored extension cord and used small flexible loops to hang it along the eve of the house so it could run the distance to the deck and then down to the outlet.

Since our days are so long during the summer we haven’t gotten much use out of them just yet, but now that summer solstice has past the days are slowly getting shorter.  I plan to enjoy them through the fall until winter threatens the first snow.

The next step is to add a low profile border of some sort between the gravel and the grass.  Then we’ll add more pea gravel to fill in the area.  We also used a strand of these same lights in the gazebo we put over the hot tub on the new deck.  I’m still getting that all set up and will share that project when I have finished pictures for you!

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Revamping Thrift Store Finds into Garden Art

Today I’m sharing a simple upcycle project that took over a year to get just right.  It started when I spotted this decorative finial at the thrift store the winter before last.  It was only a couple bucks and super heavy.  I’d seen similar shaped pieces sell for much more like this one and thought I could create a knock off version with this piece.  Here’s the quick before picture I remembered to snap just before the makeover began.

I used some grey spray paint I had on hand to give it a new look.  It was definitely an improvement, but I thought it still needed more texture.  I put it out on the deck to see if any ideas came to mind, but then got busy with other projects and never did more to it last summer.

This spring, as I prepped items for the yard I decided to give it another makeover while I was white washing some terracotta pots.  I gave it a quick dry brush with the same white paint and instantly fell in love with the look it created.

Now it looks like it’s made of concrete, just like the inspiration example!  It adds just the right amount of style to this corner of the deck where it compliments the potted plants.

And because it’s so heavy it can stand up to the dogs, so it’s placement here is also strategic.  It keeps them from jumping off the deck onto my plants in the flower bed below.  Pretty and functional all for a few dollars and a little paint. That’s my kind of makeover!

A Serving Cart for the Deck

As I was changing up things on the deck this year I decided to add a serving station.  Last year this spot was occupied by the chippy bench we brought back from Portland, but that moved to the new deck this season leaving room for this cute cart I upcycled.

I picked it up on the local buy/sell page for $50 back in the spring.  Since it was still too cold outside to work on the yard at that time, I focused my attention on upcycling items for the deck, including this and the milk can planter I shared recently.  It was in good shape but I knew the red color wouldn’t work with the other elements we had planned for the deck.  I gave it a good cleaning and several coats of spray paint.  I went with black because it ties into my modern farmhouse look and it was the one thing I could count on to cover the red.  Here’s the before and after in my makeshift paint booth in the garage.

It’s always amazing what a coat – or several in this case – of spray paint can do!  It’s the perfect height to fit under the windows and is still narrow enough to not impede the walkway to the chicken coop.

I styled the top with a couple items I had on hand including the outdoor glasses I picked up on our trip this spring and the pottery barn glass pitcher we got as a wedding present.  I borrowed the faux plant from the laundry room.  Lastly, I added the table top tiki torch for a bit of bug protection.

The lower shelf stayed pretty simple with the metal bird house I found during our spring trip and a little succulent planter I made from an old candle container.

The handle is a perfect spot to drape a dish towel, so I used this IKEA one I had in my stash for projects.  And just like that we’re ready for a party on the deck!  I plan to put it to use when we have friends over this evening.

I do wish it filled the space here a bit more so next season I may use it elsewhere and build a narrow console table to go here.  But for now I’ll enjoy my little upcycle design. 🙂

Our New Deck Shade

Hey there!  I hope your holiday week was fantastic and you got a little time off to enjoy it.  I took a couple days off from work to get caught up on some projects around the house.  The weather was clear and hot the entire week, so it finally really felt like summer.  One of the projects we knocked out was adding a shade cloth to the deck.  The Hubs actually put this up while I was out on a photo shoot so I don’t have many detail shots but it’s a pretty simple setup so you should catch on without them.

We had purchased two sun shades while on vacation down south last summer and had planned to put one over each deck.  Unfortunately when we pulled them out to set them up this summer we realized neither size we’d gotten would work for what we wanted.  So we sold those and purchased a 10 x 10 cover on Amazon.

We added these cement pole foundations in the rock beds against the deck and secured pressure treated 4×4’s into the prongs.  I plan to eventually cover the cement block with more rock so you don’t notice it but that is a project for another day.

The tops of the posts were finished with copper caps like we used on the fence around the yard and a bracket was attached to tie off the corner of shade.

We did similar brackets on the house which connect to the corners on that side  (excuse the cobwebs – I swear I clean them but those industrious little buggers seem to have them back up in no time!).  Next year we’ll swap out the rope for turnbuckle hardware for a cleaner look, but this gives us an idea of size needed for that change.

It ties right in with the other grey and black elements we’ve got going on in the yard.  And the sleek design looks good from every angle of the yard.  The amount of shade it provides changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky and we’ve noticed it does give some protection during a light rain.

It really makes the space feel intimate and inviting.  And because we made sure it didn’t hang over the grill it’s safe to stay up for the whole season.  We do plan to take it down for winter, so it doesn’t get too heavy with snow and lasts a little longer.

Not only are we enjoying it, the fur babies appreciate the extra shade too – especially on hot days like we had last week!

Freebie Doggie Toybox

Today’s post is another DIY container, but this time instead of holding flowers it’s purpose is to corral the numerous dog toys that are always around our yard.  It started with this free crate I picked up at a work event.  The vendor said they had a huge stash of them and wanted to eliminate some so I could keep it.

I first thought about putting cedar boards around it but I couldn’t find a quick and easy way to keep them attached so I moved on to a free covering option I already had in my fabric stash – burlap.  I dug out a large scrap piece left over from previous projects and cut did a quick dry ‘test’ fit.  Then I trimmed it down and grabbed some twine to secure it to the crate.  I pulled apart some of the fibers and threaded the twine through so I could tie it.

The cats decided now was a good time to ‘help’ even though this project wasn’t for them.  Apparently burlap is a good spot for a kitty nap…

I conferred with the Hubs about the best way to wrap the box and secure the liner inside.  He made a few suggestions and then just told me to hand it over so he could work on it while he watched a movie and I edited client images.  Knowing his vast knowledge of knot tying and securing loads from almost 20 years in the Coast Guard I happily accepted the offer.  About an hour later he presented me with this.

He wove the twine through the top edge of the fabric and the holes on the crate pulling it taunt as he went so everything stayed smooth on the outside.  This will keep the fabric from pulling up every time the dogs pull out a toy.

Meanwhile, Stella was still hard at work on that nap…

I took a break from editing photos and placed the box in the backyard.  I was able to fit the toys we had in two smaller baskets into this one container so I went with the spot next to the firewood storage where it’s more out of sight and helps cover the electrical conduit.

It sits under the eave of the house so it’s mostly protected from rain, but because we didn’t cover the bottom any water that does get in it will be able to drain out easily.

Seeing it in place, I’m glad I went with the burlap instead of the cedar.  It blends in more, even when it’s filled with the dog’s brightly colored toys.  I showed the dogs where their new toys and they didn’t waste any time rooting through the pile to find their favorites and head off into the yard with them.  Now if only I could train them to pick up the toys and put them back in the box!

It’s a pretty nice upgrade for spending nada and it keeps the yard a little cleaner. 🙂

My New DIY Planter

Continuing my theme of DIY planters this week, here’s another that the Hubs made for me.  It started with this cute wooden caddy I picked up on the buy/sell page.  I had planned to use it as a planter, but the support bar down the middle just wasn’t going to work for that.

 I mentioned my disappointment to the Hubs and we chatted about how I wished it had been configured.  He must have been listening and wanting a project, because a few days later he surprised me with this.

This sucker is solid wood and super HEAVY.  We gave it two coats of the teal outdoor paint we’ve used on other projects like the bin planters and firepit chairs.

Once it was in place I realized how deep it was and knew I didn’t want to fill the whole thing with dirt.  So I had the Hubs drill a couple drainage holes in the bottom and we gathered scrap wood to create a little platform half way up the inside.

Now I needed something to hold the dirt and actually plant in.  I decided to try the foil baking pans from the grocery store, since they were cheap and readily available.  I added two to my grocery order and picked them up the next day.

The pans fit the width of the box perfectly.  I decided to use two, end to end to fill the space as much as possible.  Next came planting.

I had some violas that needed a home so this seemed like a perfect spot for them.  Plus the Hubs really likes these little blooms, so it was fitting that I fill the planter he built me with flowers he likes. 🙂

They still need to grow into the space a bit but they look pretty cute for now and add a bit of color to this corner of the deck.  I like how they spill over the side a bit too.

Next year I’m thinking I’ll use ferns in the caddy since the area will be more shaded when the gazebo cover goes up soon.  Perhaps I’ll snag a couple faux ferns like the ones I used out front in the vintage cart so there’s 0 maintenance!

Repurposed Bin Planters

Today I’m sharing another couple of planters I mentioned in my recap post.  These cuties were made from old conveyor belt scoops that I got from Alaska Picker.  The first I snagged at the AK Picker Day sale – right after finding the garage sale milk can.  I hunted high and low for more of them but someone else had beat me to them.  So when I spotted another at the Alaska Chicks Vintage sale I immediately claimed one.

The first still had a section of conveyor belt attached, but the second was mounted to a piece of old barn wood.  I wanted them both to match so I had the Hubs remove both the belt and board so I could mount them on new boards.

The Hubs cut me two pieces of wood from some scrap we had from another project and I dug out my outdoor teal paint to give them a couple coats.  A little distressing around the edges gave them the perfect rustic look.  The Hubs attached the bins to the new boards and I had this cuteness!

I wasn’t sure where I was going to use them at first but when I came out and saw the big open area on the chicken coop expansion I knew they’d look great there.  After I painted the coop the Hubs drilled some drainage holes in the bottom of the bins and put them up with a couple of screws. I filled them with purple alyssum to finish them off.

I absolutely adore how they turned out.  The combo of teal, rusty metal and purple flowers makes my heart do a happy dance.  And it’s perfect for decorating a chicken coop – not to fussy but not to messy either.

I still have a little painting to do on the lower part of coop and the Hubs plans to finish off the storage area door with siding to match the rest of the coop.  I’ll share more about the expansion and new set up once it’s all done.  We also plan to fill the area in front of the coop with pavers and pea gravel to finish everything off.

Of course neither the chickens nor the dogs – or the cats for that matter – care about any of that.  They just like having a window where they can see each other face to face.  But this doggie/chicken/kitty momma is happy to have a pretty space for them all.